612-644-9781 info@crossfitslipstream.com

Simple Guide to Meditation

Last week, we explored some bedtime routines that could aid us in getting better sleep. This week, we’ll take a closer look at another tool we can use to help us feel well rested and focused: meditation.

Related: 7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight

Not too long ago, whenever someone would say the word “meditation”, I would picture monks sitting in a dark room chanting in foreign languages and think, “I can’t do that. Besides, who has the time to just sit there anyway?” So before we get to the how-to of meditation, I’d like to take moment to dispel some common thoughts you might be holding onto.

“Meditation has changed my life for the better, making me more productive and steady in mindset.”

First of all, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. In fact, you’ve probably already meditated, you just didn’t know it. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. Secondly, meditation is for everyone, as it can benefit nearly every aspect of life from work to relationships. As your mind releases stress while you meditate, your body can enter deeper rest than when you’re sleeping, which leads to an abundance of mental and physical benefits. Consistent meditation can strengthen the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and help you sleep better. On the mental side, focus improves, leading to higher rates of productivity, creativity, and connection to those around you.

Related: How do I Create Lasting Change in My Life?

If any of these benefits sound worthwhile to you, but you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve put together four simple steps to help get you started.

Step 1 – Get comfortable. This could mean lying in your bed, or sitting on a pillow or your favorite chair. Find a position that feels comfortable for you so that you can release tension in your muscles and focus your attention inward.

Step 2 – Breathe. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths in your nose and out your mouth. Even if you stop here you’ll feel better.

Step 3 – Repeat your mantra. Choose a single word or phrase you want to bring more of into your life and softly repeat it in your head. If you notice your thoughts drifting at any point, don’t worry about it, just come back to your mantra. If you’re having trouble thinking of a mantra, use a simple one like an “I am…” statement, or continue to focus on your breath.

Step 4 – Reawaken the body. After what you think has been the 5 or 10 minutes you intended to meditate for, take a long, deep breath in and out, wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly open your eyes.

Meditation has changed my life for the better, making me more productive and steady in mindset. If doing it on your own seems intimidating, keep in mind that there are tons of free resources online – and even apps now – that offer guided meditations and may take some of the pressure off. I highly recommend meditating in the morning, before the day has flooded the mind, but whenever works best in your schedule works too, whether that’s before bed or during a lunch break. My hope is that in time, you can find benefit from this practice like I did, and add it to your toolkit of ways to recharge.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

CrossFit – Games & Play 

I just had my first opportunity to attend the CrossFit Games, thanks to the decision to move them to Madison, Wisconsin.  It was a great, eye-opening experience I’m delighted I went, and I will definitely go next year.  I will, however, do things a little differently next time.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with CrossFit as a competitive sport.  It starts with the fact that I’d lose a lot, which tends to put a damper on the competitive spirit.  But much more importantly, CrossFit is a fitness program that can and does improve health, wellness, and mental well-being.  That is what it is, and what it is for.  That it can be done competitively is at most icing on the cake.  The Games and the hype surrounding them has a tendency to cause us to lose that focus.  It also looks a little strange to non-CrossFitters:

New Girl’s Max Greenfield Is Obsessed with Watching People Do CrossFit

Fortunately, the creator of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, recognizes this and is working hard to remind us that the true purpose of CrossFit is to improve our health.  Glassman has established the CrossFit Sports and Health Sciences Institute, which held a “Health Conference” the day before the Games began to address issues of corruption in the health sciences and how to find trustworthy health information.  Efforts like these will help pull our focus back to our true purpose.

Related: What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

What I plan to do differently next time goes right along with this renewed focus on CrossFit for health and fitness: I plan to take part!  No, not as a Games competitor.  That’s a little more than a year out ;-P.  I only found out a few days before the Games that there is a “Fittest Fan” ‘competition’, for people like me – we love CrossFit, and want to keep working out during the Games, and need an avenue to do that.  Plus, it’s fun opportunity to try new things and do events we normally don’t have a chance to do, like the run-swim-run.  I decided to stick to the original plan to just go and experience the Games this year, but next year I’m on it!

Related: CrossFit? But I’m a (Bike Racer/Runner/Obstacle Course Racer/Triathlte/etc.)

After we arrived at the Games, I learned that there are seminars on CrossFit specialty areas like aerobic capacity, weightlifting, and the like.  There was also an area for affiliate owners to gather, socialize, and perhaps compare notes.  So next year, my time at the Games will focus on learning and growing my skills as a CrossFit trainer, and taking part in the community by working out with CrossFitters from around the globe.  There will be less time to watch the amazing athletes compete, but it’s easily worth the trade.  The Games will be in Madison for at least two more years, so I encourage you to go and take part!  Watch some, do some, maybe shop a little, and come home inspired to keep hitting it, and get better every day, like I did.

—John M Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com

7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight

We all know the feeling of hearing the alarm go off in the morning and wanting 3 more hours in bed before we’ll be ready to tackle the day ahead. Or those days where no amount of coffee will take away the dull headache that keeps nagging all morning. But how can we avoid the poor nights’ sleep that causes these things? It starts before our head hits the pillow the night before.

“Our bodies operate on an internal 24-hour clock known as our circadian rhythm, so when we do the same things every night, we signal our brains to wind down and get ready for a good night’s rest ahead.”

Sleep is a critical element in our overall health and wellbeing. Sleep plays a key role in everything from our mood, to immune function, and even recovering from our workouts.

Related: Intensity – The Key to Improving Your Physical Fitness

As great as sleep is, it can feel like the quality of our sleep is out of our control entirely. However, we can take command of our sleeping habits. Let’s look at some simple changes we can make to our bedtime routines that could make a big difference in how we sleep.

1) SET A CONSISTENT BEDTIME

Our bodies operate on an internal 24-hour clock known as our circadian rhythm, so when we do the same things every night, we signal our brains to wind down and get ready for a good night’s rest ahead. Therefore, the most important thing we can do to improve our sleeping pattern is to have a set time we go to bed every night. This simple solution might just be the key to saying goodbye to those nights spent tossing and turning just hoping we’ll fall asleep eventually, even though we don’t feel the slightest bit tired. Try to keep your bedtime consistent on the weekends, too. This will make it easier to fall asleep Sunday night and make Monday feel a little less like Monday.

2) CUT OUT SCREEN TIME

Do you fall victim to the nighttime Instagram or Facebook scroll after hopping into bed? Yeah, me too. But the main thing that late night screen time is doing to us is making it harder to fall asleep. Screens emit blue light, which inhibits production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone, disrupting our sleep patterns. In studies, people who used light-emitting devices before bed took longer to fall asleep, spent less time in REM sleep, and took longer to wake up the next morning even after receiving the same amount of sleep. It’s also been shown that the “Night Shift” feature on many phones may not help much. Even just having our phone near us during the night has been shown to raise our alertness levels and leave us with less restful sleep. So cut out all screen time for at least 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep. Use this time for any other bedtime routine, breakfast prep, or read a printed book to settle down the mind and give the eyes a break before bed.

3) TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Slowing down our breath is one of the most effective methods we have to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that calms us down. When we focus on our breath for even a short amount of time, all those other thoughts we have running through our mind after a busy day tend to float away, leaving us ready to get some serious shuteye. Try this: when you get into bed, lay down on your back and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a big breath in through your nose while counting to 5, trying to push the belly as far upwards as possible. Pause for 1 second after the inhale, then open the mouth and slowly breath out, also on the count of 5, letting the belly fall as we do so. Repeat 10-15 times, or, what I find usually happens, as many times as you can until you lose count and realize you’re too sleepy to continue.

4) REFLECT

Now that our phones are out of the picture to distract us before bed, we can focus inward and reflect on the day we’re about to finish. There’s no right or wrong way to reflect. If you like writing stuff down, maybe journal about your day to get thoughts on paper. But if that’s hard for you to do every night, just take a couple moments while sitting or lying down to think of things like the highs and lows of the day, the things you’re proud of, and whether or not you got closer to achieving your goals in the last 24 hours. Have a particularly rough or stressful day? Maybe use this time to remind yourself of some things you’re grateful for. You might find that this reflection, however you go about it, goes a long way in releasing any tension from the day, leaving you free to get some peaceful sleep.

5) STRETCH IT OUT

Recent research indicates that some forms of exercise done before bed may actually help us sleep better. While I wouldn’t recommend sprinting laps around your house, light exercise – and stretching and mobility work in particular – can help us settle down, release any tension built up from the day, and send blood to our muscles and joints to aid in recovery. If you’ve been sitting most of the day, some hip openers or thoracic spine mobility exercises before bed might be just the thing you need.

Related: The 4 Best Hip Openers to Improve Your Mobility

6) THINK AHEAD

If you find yourself about to get into bed and not even remotely tired yet, don’t! Use that energy to prep for your morning. Some great options include: getting your gym gear ready to go, preparing tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch, and setting the timer on your coffee maker. Not only will you use your energy productively, but you’ll save valuable time in the morning, and feel more at ease about the day to come once you do crawl into bed, putting yourself in a better frame of mind to fall asleep quickly.

7) HAVE AN (ALTERNATIVE) NIGHTCAP

While a drink before bed might help you fall asleep faster, you’ve probably heard by now that the sleep you do get after that nightcap isn’t quite as restorative as we’d hope. However, if you do need to quench your thirst late at night, try tea instead. Certain teas can calm the nerves, settle the gut, and help us sleep. Stomach growling before bed? Try having a snack that contains protein like cottage cheese or your favorite nut butter. These snacks keep you satisfied through the night, helping you sleep.

Related: Protein Intake for Best Results

It’s important to note that if any of these ideas feel like a burden or don’t seem like they’re helping you sleep soundly at night after about a week of trying them, don’t feel obligated to stick with them. Try any of these suggestions for a week. If it doesn’t feel like it’s helping, or if it’s too burdensome, try something else. Everyone will have a unique bedtime routine that works for them, so experiment to find what works best for you. Through finding a bedtime routine that creates better sleep, the hours we’re awake are nearly guaranteed to be happier and healthier. So get to work and get some sleep!

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

AUGUST MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET RENEE!

Renee has been doing CrossFit at CrossFit Slipstream for almost 2 years!  The secret to her success has been consistently going to class 2-3 times a week.   Read more about Renee below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I have always been doing some sort of activity such as running, biking, waterskiing, hiking, cross country skiing,  just not as consistent as I should be. My husband Tom became involved about a year and half prior to me joining. Based on his positive experience I thought I could give it a try and besides it was something we could do together.

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

Since doing CrossFit I’ve had my fastest results in 5k’s.  I believe the one on one instruction and the challenging WOD motivates you to push yourself beyond your limitations. Each CrossFit workout is a challenge but so rewarding after. ( not the soreness though)

3. How had doing CrossFit affected your health and/or life?

Since starting CrossFit almost 2 years ago, I feel considerably better, both physically and mentally. If I don’t work out for a week I feel lousy and more sluggish. It has taught me to live a more balanced life. CrossFit has taught me it’s all about the effort you put in. I am not one that can motivate and push myself like I do  when I go to the gym. It’s also nice to have the classes scaled to each individual’s ability and I like the supportive team work everyone gives each other.

5 Tips for Watching the CrossFit Games

Ah, the CrossFit Games! CrossFit’s annual contest to find the “fittest” man, woman, & six-person mixed-gender team “on Earth.” The Games are amazing. The Games are humbling. The Games are inspiring. The Games are not CrossFit. These are things to keep in mind while watching, discussing, and trying to understand what you are seeing. Try to keep the following in mind while watching this amazing event:

1) The director of the CrossFit Games, Dave Castro, states unequivocally that the purpose of the Games is to “test fitness”. It is not just a competition to see who can complete certain tasks with the best average score, like the decathlon. As a test, it must be extreme – it must push athletes to and beyond their limits. So, when you see athletes struggle – and even fail – (like this – see 11:00 in), that is why. It isn’t a test without the possibility of failure.

Related: What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

2) The CrossFit Games workouts are sometimes announced ahead of time, but not always. Imagine preparing for an athletic event without knowing what the events are. Imagine athletes qualifying for the Olympics in the discus then having to compete in fencing. Even though you can be sure some things will be in there – they’re going to do pull-ups at some point – this uncertainty is central to the CrossFit Games.

“Fitness is not just in the gym. Fitness is outside of the gym. It’s life. Anytime you find yourself saying, ‘Damn it, I can’t do that,’ you have a hole in your fitness.” –Matt Chan

3) The Games are deliberately a spectacle. The intention is not only to test fitness, but to put on a dramatic show. While drama comes out of competition in other sports, in CrossFit it can come both from the competition and from the task itself. New, unknown, and unfamiliar challenges are the hallmark of the Games and what makes it so different from all other athletic competitions. New, crazier challenges, like pegboards, test not only fitness, but problem solving and emotional resilience as well.

crossfit-games-2013-women-zigzag-sprint

4) You are watching professional athletes. Most of the Games competitors train somewhere between 2 and 7 hours per day, six days a week. Now, that time includes a lot of resting between sets, but it’s still a full-time job. Most of them have also been training at that level for several years now. While you and I can do the same workout, we need to manage our expectations. We can also swim 200 meters freestyle just like Michael Phelps, but comparing our times to his really isn’t fair to us. The same holds true for the workouts at the Games.

Related: CrossFit? But I’m a (Bike Racer, Runner, Obstacle Course Racer, Triathlete, etc.

5) Remember why you do, or are interested in, CrossFit: to move better, to be able to handle life’s challenges, to live a fuller, more engaged life, to challenge yourself, and in meeting those challenges, learn more about yourself, and gain confidence that you can face whatever life throws at you. As Matt Chan, a six-time Games competitor has said: “Fitness is not just in the gym. Fitness is outside of the gym. It’s life. Anytime you find yourself saying, ‘Damn it, I can’t do that,’ you have a hole in your fitness.”

As long as you are improving, challenging yourself, and setting and reaching new goals, CrossFit is benefitting you. So let the Games inspire you, not suppress you.

–John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com

What’s the Functional Movement Screen and How Can it Help You?

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is now available at CrossFit Slipstream! But what is the FMS and why have we added it to our toolkit? The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a series of ten movement challenges that identify any pain or other issues you may have with seven basic ways of moving the human body.  Once any issues have been identified, a plan can be established and followed to correct them.  Doing this will help you progress faster, more efficiently, and with reduced chance of injury.

When you no longer need to compensate for a missing piece of your movement puzzle, you will unlock your true potential.

Correcting these issues is important because human movement follows a simple pyramid of development:

fms-performance-pyramid

Movement fundamentals must be in place before athletic performance or skill can be trained effectively.  Otherwise, it’s like building a house on an unstable foundation – eventually, the problem in the foundation will bring the house down.  It’s hard to finish, let alone run your best 5k if a movement issue means you can’t stride properly.  Likewise, there is little point in attempting to learn highly-skilled movements such as good running technique if you have to stop every 10 steps to catch your breath. That would mean you lack endurance, a key performance fundamental.

fmscrossfitslipstream

Like fitness, human movement has a foundation, which are the basic mobility, stability, and motor control necessary for optimal movement.  The FMS screens for primitive mobility and stability, and also for the next higher level movements built on those elements. Those represent the different ways we can place our feet for the types of movements we do standing – on one-foot (stepping), on two feet symmetrically (squat) or two feet asymmetrically (lunge). By examining these movement patterns, we can identify and correct issues before they turn into injuries. And injuries, by definition, make us less fit. And that’s no fun.

Related: Why Motor Control Makes You Stronger

Your FMS result is a report that discusses any issues revealed by the Screen, and guides the plan of attack against them. First, we avoid loading any patterns that have difficulty. We need to address the issues creating those difficulties before we add load to the movement. Next, we work to remove the cause of the issue – is it hip mobility? Trouble holding your pelvis steady? Something else? We can then devise corrective strategies to help you correct your issue(s).

Related: How ROM Can Make You Fitter

This may be frustrating or difficult, and you may be tempted not to do the Screen to avoid interrupting your fitness “gainz”. But this temporary “sidetrack” is essential for avoiding injury and the genuine sidetrack it represents. Also, with greater confidence in your foundation, you will find it easier to challenge yourself on your performance and skill efforts, increasing your rate of overall progress and maximizing your “gainz”. When you no longer need to compensate for a missing piece of your movement puzzle, you will unlock your true potential. Without it, you will always be limited by what’s missing in your foundation.  The Screen consists of:

functional-movement-screen1

…plus three “clearing” tests to determine if the other tests caused an issue.  The full sequence takes less than 20 minutes.  The knowledge you gain from the screen is worth dramatically more than what it takes to do the Screen.  Email or see me at the gym to ask any questions you have about the Screen and how it can help you!

–John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com

CrossFit?  But I’m A (Bike Racer, Runner, Obstacle Course Racer, Triathlete, etc.)

CrossFit is a general physical fitness program, and is to all physical activity as decathlon is to track and field – broad, not deep.  Nevertheless, CrossFit can help you accomplish any sport-specific goal in one of two ways: as the foundation of general physical fitness on which you layer specialty training, OR as off-season training to get stronger, maintain cardiovascular fitness, avoid burnout and prevent injury.

…CrossFit can help you accomplish any sport-specific goal in one of two ways…

Which program is right for you depends on the importance of the sport to you and your athletic goals – including its seasonality.

The more your goals are to be genuinely competitive against other racers and the more defined your season the more specific your training should be.  For you, doing CrossFit in the off-season under the watchful eye of a coach who knows and keeps your goals in mind, is the right choice.  A few months of CrossFit will restore your strength, recover lost mobility, and keep you healthy for another season of competition.  You may even find your performance improved by your experience, as your improved strength-to-weight ratio, explosive strength, balance, and other attributes translate into improved performance.

You will also appreciate the mental break: in CrossFit, your workouts are programmed for you, there’s no waiting for equipment, and you can focus on working hard without the hassles of a gym full of people doing different things.

Related: Mental Fitness

If your athletic goals are year-round, or more focused on the process, participation, or personal achievement, CrossFit is a fantastic year-round foundation for your sport-specific preparation.  This would be classic “CrossFit Endurance,” in which you use CrossFit for basic preparation and especially for core strength, then layer as much specific training as you need and can perform to reach your sport-specific goals.  We’re delighted to program all of it for you, if you’d like.

Related: What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

So athletes, come give CrossFit Slipstream a try with a free introductory workout, visit our “Guest Days,” or come see us at season’s end.

–John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com

JULY MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET NIKKI!

Nikki has been doing CrossFit at CrossFit Slipstream for four months!  She has her sights set on some pretty cool goals!  The secret to her success has been consistently going to class 3 times a week.   Read more about Nikki below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I have been working out for several years, have completed several triathlons and a marathon, but I had plateaued. I wasn’t getting any faster or stronger and I felt stuck. I chose CrossFit to reach my personal goals, figuring this was completely out of my comfort zone.

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

I like having a structured workout that varies every day with one on one instruction. I have had my two fastest 5k times since joining CrossFit.

What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

So CrossFit is “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.”

But what do you actually do when you go to a CrossFit “box”?

Video: What is CrossFit?

We do the “WOD”.  A CrossFit box normally programs one workout of the day – the “WOD”.  If you go to the box that day, that is the workout you will do, with any changes to the movements, weights, or other elements that you need to challenge your current abilities without overreaching them.  A major benefit you receive from joining CrossFit Slipstream as opposed to other fitness facilities is this programmed but customized workout – you don’t have to decide what to do, wait for equipment to be available (though you have to share sometimes), or change your workout based on what others are doing.

Related: CrossFit “as Rx” vs. Personal Progress

Our WODs are one hour long, and begin with everyone gathering at the whiteboard on which the WOD is written.  We introduce ourselves to any visitors, and discuss the warm-up, workout, and cool-down planned for that day.  We discuss any adjustments we expect to make with you as  individuals, then we get to work.

WODs can be anything from just back squatting to lots of repetitions of lots of exercises one after the other to a long run, but many have two parts: a lifting portion and a “metcon”.

The lifting portion can be Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, or another element that taxes your ability to produce force.  Sometimes, this is all we’ll do.  It’s challenging, fun, and won’t make you bulky (unless you want it to and you eat 4,000+ calories a day to make it happen).

CrossFit Slipstream lifting

“Metcon” is short for “metabolic conditioning” and means the part where you are breathing hard.  This is training that taxes the glycolytic and oxidative metabolic pathways (also known as anaerobic and aerobic, respectively).  Endurance athletes know and love these systems.  These can last from 1 to 40 or more minutes.

Related: “On-Ramp” Accelerates You to CrossFit Speed!

CrossFit Slipstream Wall Balls

When the workout portion is over, it is very important to cool down and stretch to begin the recovery process and ensure that your hard work leads to improvement, rather than just sore muscles.  CrossFit Slipstream programs and implements cool-down and “mobility” elements for every WOD, so you are not left on your own for these critical elements of a complete workout.

CrossFit Slipstream stretching

Related: How Can ROM Make You Fitter?

If you’re new to CrossFit and want to see for yourself what it’s all about, please come to an introductory workout.  Click here to GET STARTED!

– John Bryant

P.S. We often refer to CrossFit gyms as “boxes” because they look empty compared to most fitness facilities.  This is because we don’t use machines.  Your bodyweight and simple implements are all we need to get you in the greatest shape of your life!

1 2 3 9